Happy New Year – surely it has to be better than last year! I did my usual tradition of fixing mochi rice cakes for breakfast, considered by the Japanese a good luck food to start the year off right, if you don’t choke on the super-gooey things. For the first time I also fixed “toshikoshi” soba soup late on New Year’s Eve. Eating soba requires biting (breaking) the long soba noodles, symbolizing the breaking away from the old year. Yes, be gone 2020!
Of course I did the “o-souji” the last days of December. This is the “big clean” of the house to sweep away the old dirt —and get ready for the new! In Japanese Shinto belief, osouji is for deep cleaning the house to welcome the spirit of the new year. This is not just vacuuming and dusting, but cleaning everything that is not part of the normal cleaning routine—curtains, blinds, top of fridge, ceiling fan blades, light fixtures. It’s exhausting! It can also include getting rid of things you don’t use or are tired of. I don’t remember my mother doing much of this, but she did insist on changing the bedsheets on New Year’s Eve day. Osouji also symbolizes putting the past “dirt” behind you to start your life afresh.
While these New Year traditions won’t change anything, they do bring hope and the awareness that a fresh start is possible. During these especially trying and difficult times, this new year brings hope for good health as well as good luck, hope for a miracle that people will behave nicer and with respect for others, hope for the US to not be torn apart (even further) by poisonous politics. Wishful thinking, I know, but I’d be willing to eat more mochi rice cakes and keep finding things to clean if that would help. And I’ll be praying.